New Year’s Day in the 19th Century
While Christmas was a family celebration, New Year’s Day calling was a community-wide event. Well-wishers traveled from house to house, paying their respects and partaking of the hospitality of homeowners. The Sewards, like other families, laid out tables of food and drink to their callers. When William Seward was inaugurated as governor on January 1, 1839, twelve-year-old Augustus Seward wrote that their Albany home was spread with five tables set with turkeys, ham, beef, corn beef, alamode beef, New Year’s cakes, crackers, cheese, champagne and wine. He also noted that “all the meat was trimed [sic] off with fringed paper of all coulers, white, red, blue, straw couleur, pink.”
Do you have an inclination to celebrate like the Sewards? It can be argued that William Seward’s favorite party drink – it appears repeatedly on menus and in the family’s bills and receipts – was “Roman Punch.” Here is a recipe adapted from Marion Harland’s 1871 book, Common Sense in the Household.
2 c. strong sweet lemonade
½ c. champagne or other sparkling wine
½ c. rum
Juice of 2 oranges
Whites of 2 eggs well beaten with
1 c. 4X sugar
Refrigerate until very cold and serve in punch cups. Or put into freezing tray until partially frozen. Stir until smooth, then allow to freeze throughout. Stir well again and serve in sherbet glasses or punch cups at dinner.
Source: Louise Belden, The Festive Tradition, W.W. Norton, 1983.
Seward house is located at 33 South Street in Auburn. For more information about the museum, hours of operation and special events for the holidays, please call 315-252-1283 or visit the Seward House online.
Photos courtesy of The Seward House
If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read: Holiday Traditions of the 19th Century: Christmas and Holiday Traditions of the 19th Century: Thanksgiving.